________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 33. . . .April 30, 2010.


Food Fight: A Graphic Guide Adventure.

Liam O’Donnell. Illustrated by Mike Deas.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2010.
64 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 978-1-55469-067-1.

Grades 6-10 / Ages 11-15.

Review by Ruth Sands.


Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.




As I helped Irene pack vegetables at their stall, my mind was racing with the idea that one of the scientists was sabotaging his own research.

“Sorry I blamed your family for spraying my mom’s crops, Irene. I guess when bad things happen, it’s easy to blame someone you don’t really know.”

“Don’t sweat it. We haven’t sprayed anything on our crops since we became an organic farm.”

“Organic farmers don’t use chemicals like pesticides or fertilizers to grow their crops.”

“Doesn’t that make it harder to keep the plants healthy and stop bugs from eating them?”

“We use other methods to keep crops healthy.”

“And we create a smaller carbon footprint while doing it. When we use pesticides, that impact is permanent and can travel well beyond the farm.”

Spraying pesticides is an effective way for farmers to quickly protect their plants from insects, and herbicides kill weeds that make it harder to grow crops. We can’t see these chemicals, but they can be harmful to people and animals too.

Because pesticides are made from chemicals, they stay in the environment for a long time. Rain can wash the pesticides away from the fields into nearby rivers and lakes.

Once they are in the water system, the chemicals are absorbed by animals and plants living there. When predators feed on them, they absorb the chemicals too and might get sick or even die.

“Since organic farms don’t use pesticides, we can be sure we are not harming the animals or environment around our crops.”

“And you can be sure you’re not getting any chemicals in your food too!”

“That’s why you were suspicious of my mom’s crop. You thought they were using pesticides or had genetically modified the corn and could harm the land.”

Food Fight is the latest, riveting and informative addition to the “Graphic Guide Adventures” collection by writer Liam O’Donnell and illustrator Mike Deas. Devin is stuck at summer camp, and he hates it. If it were an ordinary camp with swimming and outdoor hiking, he might be willing to put a little more effort into enjoying himself, but as it is a camp in the city, for little kids, run by his older sister Nadia, he’s just looking for ways to escape. The reason for Devin’s “imprisonment” is his mother’s research project. Dr. Chang is working on developing new ways to conserve water in agricultural situations. Her research will help farmers in drier climates find better ways to conserve and use water. The research is being funded by Gengro, and she is using a new fertilizer produced by them, which is leading to problems in her results. It soon becomes apparent that someone is out to discredit Dr. Chang’s work, and Devin, Nadia, and their friend, Simon, have to find out who is trying to sabotage the project.

     internal artWhile searching for the truth behind the vandalism done to his mother’s crops, Devin makes a new friend in Irene. At first, he believe that she and her family may be the ones who are trying to stop his mother’s research, but he soon discovers that is not the case. With the help of Irene, Devin learns that the food that ends up on our table may not be as good for us or the environment as it should be. Irene teaches Devin about food origins and organic farming and helps Devin gain a new appreciation for the food he consumes. Eventually, the kids are able to discover the culprits and stop Gengro’s nefarious plot to control the world’s food production.

     Food Fight is interesting, informative and fun to read. O’Donnell has once again used his unique teaching tool to inform a generation of children about a current and growing social concern. For the most part, we are a generation that has been brought up to expect easy access to food, without actually thinking about where that food is coming from. There is a growing push today to understand what is done to our food, to be conscious about how it is being grown, and to be concerned about the environmental impact that we, as a species, have on the planet. Organic farming is gaining in popularity and is becoming more accessible and affordable. It is important for the youth of today to understand the choices they have and what the consequences of those choices are.

     O’Donnell has provided easily accessible information on a wide range of food related subjects. The guide shows the first steps to planting a home garden, discusses food preparation safety, illustrates how to understand the nutritional content of prepared foods and reminds us about the necessity of balance in our diets. It also introduces kids to the impact of current farming practices on the environment and the alternative of organic farming. All this information, combined with the superb art work of Mike Deas, is sure to grab and keep the attention of today’s youth.

     I have one small complaint about the novel and that is the section on hand washing. While I know we are living in a world that is paranoid about the spread of germs and diseases, I found this section to be a little out of context for the whole of the novel. It is followed by two more information rich sections which make the novel start to feel a little too much like a lecture. I understand that safe food-handling practices are important, but this section of the novel was a little jarring for me as the reader. Again, it is a small complaint as I found the novel as a whole very good.

     O’Donnell and Deas have done another great job in presenting to kids information that is accessible, interesting, and relevant. This graphic novel is –

Highly Recommended.

Ruth Sands is a freelance writer from Vancouver, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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